The earliest fragmentation in molecular clouds : and its connection to star formation
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Stars are born from dense cores of gas within molecular clouds. The exact nature of the connection between these gas cores and the stars they form is an important issue in the field of star formation. In this thesis I use numerical simulations of molecular clouds to trace the evolution of cores into stars. The CLUMPFIND method, commonly used to identify gas structures is tested. I find that the core boundaries it yields are unreliable, but in spite of this, the same profile is universally found for the mass function. To facilitate a more robust definition of a core, a modified clumpfind algorithm which uses gravitational potential instead of density is introduced. This allows the earliest fragmentation in a simulated molecular cloud to be identified. The first bound cores have a mass function that closely resembles the stellar IMF, but there is a poor correspondence between individual core masses and the stellar masses formed from them. From this, it is postulated that environmental factors play a significant part in a core’s evolution. This is particularly true for massive stars, as massive cores are prone to further fragmentation. In these simulations, massive stars are formed simultaneously with stellar clusters, and thus the evolution of one can affect the other. In particular, the global collapse of the forming cluster aids accretion by the precursors of the massive stars. By tracing the evolution of the massive stars, I find that most of the material accreted by them comes from diffuse gas, rather than from a well-defined stellar core.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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